Music is the best thing ever. No matter what mood you are in, it gets you through. Good, bad, downright ugly. It’s there for you like a warm soft blanket of comfort. It can take you places without even leaving your room.
Kevin Vonesper is no exception. I met him through a mutual friend after listening to one of my favorite songs and saw he had done a remix of it. And after that day, the rest has been history. I was so excited and completely honored when I asked him to be part of this music blog and he accepted.
From the bright lights of NYC to the cool streets of Queens, Kevin takes us through the beginning of the band Vonesper and everything in between. It was quite fun and an honor to do this interview and learn more about a band who’s been rocking and rolling for 15 years!
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did writing it.
KV–Hi! This is Kevin Vonesper, founder of Vonesper (member #1).
Vonesper is based from New York City, what’s the music scene like there? How do you fit in?
KV–Yes, we are based in Astoria, Queens/NYC. Queens brought us some great bands in the past like KISS and Ramones. Today there are a ton of bands in every scene. Vonesper doesn’t really have a scene so we don’t really fit in anywhere, but at the same time we can fit in anywhere. Our sound has range so we could adopt a set to play in any scene from pop to metal.
How did Vonesper get started?
KV–I started Vonesper in 2001 as a senior in high school. It was just a new name to put to the demos I was creating as my band at the time Project Mayhem was coming to an end. When I started college, I took those ideas into a new project called Putty Root which I created with Valerie Abbey (who went on to be in The Cruxshadows, Angelspit, and now Abbey Death). It wasn’t until about 2004 that I started actually releasing demos under the name Vonesper and finally formed the first live band for it in 2006.
How did you decide on the name for the band? Being that it’s your last name but there are many members to the group.
KV–Well, the not-so-secret is that Vonesper is a stage name, not my birth name. It was a name I had heard as far back as possibly middle school that I thought was cool and always remembered. What I liked about it was that it wasn’t a real word and thus could be re-defined as a title for a band or brand, kind of like Weezer (what the fuck does that mean?). Some Google research may uncover where it originally came from but I like the idea that it is a clean palate.
What kind of style of music do you feel that you fit into? Share a little info about your sound.
KV–Our sound is an amalgamation of all the things I love. It’s a huge and limitless sound. I would call us punk rock in that the ideas are original and the approach is DIY. I like to use heavy guitar sounds (like Deadsy or Coal Chamber) but also incorporate orchestral arrangements (like World/Inferno Friendship Society or The Beatles), and to top it off we have a vocalist who can actually sing her face off. Because we don’t stick to any particular genre’s formula of sound or song structure, we can fit in anywhere but nowhere in-particular. I grew up on bands that had similar ranges of style (NIN, Smashing Pumpkins, Faith No More) which seems to be lost on people these days because there is a lack of these kinds of bands in the popular culture.
Vonesper has been around for 15 years, that’s amazing these days seeing groups come and go. What gives you all the staying power you need?
KV–I think being the only consistent member helps, haha. As long as I continue using the name, Vonesper can exist. Also, having a unique perspective on what it means to be a band. I am influenced not only by the sound of bands, but also how they structure them. For example, I have been a member of Green Jelly on and off since 2008. The creator Bill Manspeaker has had that band since before I was born and has had literally hundreds of people in and out of the band over the years. Now he just has what he calls franchise bands in every area so he can travel by himself and play anywhere, anytime without the stress of traveling with a band and all the equipment. Also bands like World/Inferno who have a sort of whomever is around at the time is in the band approach. For Vonesper, the project now has 3 core members (myself, Kris Halpern and Jess-O-Lantern) but has no limit to who collaborates with us in the studio, on stage, or with artwork. So far we have had 37 people, including myself, who have been members in various capacities over the years. Some people maybe for an hour in the studio, some for years. Some of my earliest contributors still work with us today even if they do it remotely.
The new single Battle Plan, it’s amazing, great sound in such a short but sweet tune. What made you want to do a video for this particular track?
KV–Aww, thank you. I started over 40 demos over the Summer. We dwindled those down to a smaller batch to focus on and ended up recording live drums for 7 of them (so far) with my favorite living drummer Brian Viglione (Dresden Dolls, Scarlet Sails, NIN). Of those 7, Battle Plan seemed like the best song to put out first. We wanted to sort of re-launch Vonesper as a brand and thought it was the best introduction to the new era: a one-minute blast of punk rock energy that still included all the elements that define our sound (loud guitars, lush violin and horns, hard hitting drums). Plus, we launched it with a Patreon page which is our so called “Battle Plan” going forward. We like the idea of being supported by our fans while being able to put out our music for free.
(GIVE A LISTEN TO THEIR NEW SINGLE, BATTLE PLAN, YOU WON’T BE DISAPPOINTED)
Being from the city that never sleeps, do you find it sometimes hard to get your name out there? Almost lost in the sauce so to speak.
KV–Haha, absolutely. Everything is over saturated here in NYC so as Frank Sinatra says “if you can make it here, you’ll make it anywhere.” Especially as a band who puts a lot of time and energy (and MONEY) into our shows, we can’t play them as often as we want. It’s always at a loss so we try our best to make each show a unique experience. As a video professional in my career, I make sure each one is also professionally recorded so it can live online and eventually be seen by many more people than were actually in attendance. So in short, yes, it’s super hard to be noticed here.
I love that you have a female front woman of the group, I think there should be more bands like this. how do you think her voice compliments the songs?
(side note: Jess-O-Lantern really seriously kicks major ass in this band, love her!)
KV–It’s fantastic! We were lucky to have finally found a singer who fits with our sound. Jess-O-Lantern is a horror punk rocker who moved here a few years back from the Orlando, FL area. Her voice, literally and figuratively, fits the songs now because she has written her own parts for all the music we have released since her joining. Little known fact is that I was the original singer of Vonesper when I was recording demos back at the start. Nobody has really heard those, thank goodness, because I am horrible. We have had several other voices over the years who were all great for the time, but Jess is by far the best and most permanent fit.
Thinking back to when you started writing music and really began to compile a catalog of songs, what was the first time it clicked in your head that this is what you wanted to do? When did you realize that yes indeed, you wanted to write music and share it with the world?
KV–I have been writing and recording my own music since 4th grade and played my first show in a band when I was 11. My first demo was 4 songs recorded on a Tascam 4-track so even back then I had a catalog of songs. Safe to say I always knew this was what I wanted to do.
Can you remember back to the first song that really stuck with you?
what was your first musical memory?
KV–I couldn’t possibly remember my first musical memory. I always had records (yes, like actual vinyl) as a kid and lots of cassette tapes. Some of my first tapes that I can remember influencing me were Faith No More “The Real Thing” and Genesis “Invisible Touch”. The first CDs I ever bought (when those became a thing) were the Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey Soundtrack (which had some great hard rock and metal on it) and Madonna’s “I’m Breathless”. I got both at the same time. Of course when Nirvana started appearing on MTV, that was a huge moment. I watched a lot of MTV in the nineteen-hundreds, when they still played music and had shows like Alternative Nation and Headbanger’s Ball.
(STACK ATTACKS MUSIC would also love for MTV to start playing music again……)
What do you think about the artists that crossover from their genre to a whole other level of music? Do you think you could ever do that?
KV–Yes and no because I am already writing without a specific genre. I mean, I guess rock is my wheelhouse because that’s what I have always naturally gravitated towards, but the songs themselves could be re-arranged into any genre. Also, as a producer, I have written and produced other genres and would like to do more of that. Last year we even produced a hip-hop track (you can hear “HPSTRS//Best Rap Ever” on Lexa Terrestrial’s debut album LeX-Files). Recently we produced a ukulele-based song for our singer Jess-O-Lantern’s first solo album.
Dream collaborations? Who would you love to write music with if given the chance?
KV–Buckethead! Call me anytime, Bucket! I’m waiting for you.
What do you think a world without music would be like?
KV–Unbearable. I couldn’t really imagine a world without music. As long as there is sound, music will exist.
(Thank God for that because otherwise my job would be boring…….)
What kind of advice would you give other artists and musicians out there, just getting started in the field?
KV–Please do it because it is what you are passionate about. Please have something original to put out there. Otherwise, we are already over saturated and the music industry basically doesn’t exist except for a small elite. Also, being rich would help.
Where does your passion for music lie? What makes you love what you do?
KV–This is sort of confusing question but I guess I would say that I write music because it comes to me naturally in my head. I almost never sit down with a guitar with an intent to write a song. It’s the opposite, I sit down with a guitar to play out an idea that is already in my head. I guess you could say it chose me. Why am I cursed like this?
Give us some insight into what could be seen and/or heard from Vonesper in the future.
KV–Even though everything is moving very slowly down the Vonesper pipeline, I can assure you that we are bursting at the seems with material and ideas. We are waiting for time, life, and money to catch up so we can properly create and release everything as properly as possible. The plan is to have an ongoing series of singles with accompanying art (music videos, comics, clothes, etc). Like I mentioned before, I have over 40 songs that I demoed just this past Summer. There are probably at least 100 or so songs or ideas from the past that have also never seen a proper release (to date we have only released one album and 2 singles of original material).
Final Thoughts? this is your open mic to say whatever you’d like…………………..
KV–Vonesper has always been a completely DIY project. We write and record in our own studios and even had make our own CDs as one-of-a-kind art pieces. Please consider supporting us so we can continue to create effectively. Also, Vonesper Studios, LLC is my own multi-media production company from which all our art is created. Shameless plug to hire me for your project (www.vonesperstudios.com). Check out the entire history of Vonesper at vonesper.com. Support new music!
One of my favorite people in the world and one of my favorite bands. Thank you again Kevin for doing this interview!
Check out the webpages below for more content and info
www.patreon.com/vonesper (their fundraising page)
Plus you can follow Kevin on Instagram @mrvonesper
Thanks for reading, until nexttime……………….
Stack Attacks Music signing off!
Feel free to contact me for interviews: firstname.lastname@example.org